“I grew up thinking we were the perfect family”: a DNA test revealed that I was the product of an affair. Am I entitled to a share of my biological father’s estate?

I grew up thinking we were the perfect family. My parents were married for 60 years, and my siblings have always been very close. My mother passed away a few years ago. Just for fun we all did one of these DNA tests and surprisingly I found out that I was the product of an affair.

Although I have not been able to confirm 100%, I have a good idea of ​​who my biological father is from mutual relatives and friends. I remember him and his family. Here’s the kicker: he won’t discuss anything with me.

In fact, his first question was, “What do you want?” Honestly, I really wanted answers. I can’t get them from mom and I don’t want to break my dad’s heart. I don’t know if he knows it or not. He is old and not well.

As long as my father – the one who raised me – is alive, I don’t know if I want a relationship with my half-siblings or not. It is all very overwhelming. However, my biological father is also elderly and in poor health.

My brothers and sisters have advised me to consider what I might be entitled to as an inheritance, because this man is actually very well-off, and always has been. Ironically, my parents bought a house for him and his wife many years ago.

I don’t even know what I’m entitled to, whether I want it or not, whether I want relationships etc. Can you help guide me financially in this case?


Dear confused,

No family is perfect, but all families start with the illusion of perfection.

Sorry, Tolstoy.

Achieving perfection is an incredibly high goal for any couple who are considering having children. At worst, families can be the equivalent of an 18-year lockdown. It is a group of people gathered under one roof on a limited budget for a long period of time. It can be hard to bear.

You have two challenges with a claim on your biological father’s inheritance. The first is to prove without a shadow of a doubt that you really are his daughter. Second, assuming he’s your birth father, you have to grapple with the possible ramifications of his response to your contact with him.

Now that you’ve introduced yourself to your alleged biological father – and, presumably, the rumor has spread that you could be his biological daughter – he and his family may be thinking the same thing as you, except backwards: ” Is she entitled to anything from this estate? “

He could specifically disinherit you and / or all of his biological children who were not born of his marriage. Hell, he could disinherit all of his children if he wanted to. However, if a person dies without a will, state estate laws apply. Beneficiaries include direct descendants.

Once upon a time, children born out of wedlock were denied inheritance by law. But these laws were effectively knocked down in 1968 by the Supreme Court of the United States in Levy v. Louisiana. I try to avoid the old-fashioned term “marriage” because it suggests a kind of open prison.

Once upon a time, children born out of wedlock were denied inheritance by law.

If a court did not establish paternity during your biological father’s lifetime, if it did not openly recognize you as his daughter before his death, and / or if he could not do so during his lifetime, you are sent back to where you started: DNA testing.

Under California law, for example, “The court will not accept private genetic testing as evidence in a paternity case unless the test has been ordered by the court.” If the court orders genetic testing, it will provide the named parents with the information they need to do the testing. “

The question is no longer so “Do you want a relationship with your half-siblings?” But rather “Do you want a relationship with your biological father – assuming he’s your biological father?” My advice is to answer this question and proceed on that basis, putting aside all thoughts of inheritance.

It is obviously a traumatic and surreal experience to discover that your known father may not be your biological father. As you take in the fact that you didn’t have a perfect family, prepare for the fact that any relationship with your biological father will also be far from perfect. But there is also a strange beauty there.

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